CINCINNATI -- For the children at Amicus Children Learning Center, stepping into a classroom has never felt so good.
It wasn't always that way.
Amicus helps primarily 4- to 12-year-olds with tutoring and homework; there are also field trips and activities. It has some paid staff but relies on volunteers and work-study students from the University of Cincinnati.
All Amicus' children come from low-income families. To get a voucher to attend, the child's parent or guardian has to be working, going to school or volunteering in the community.
During the school year, nine buses drop off children from all over the city.
"Our focus is to support and enable children as they come into our program to teach them not only basics in math, reading and science, but also how to get along with peers," president and CEO David Booker said.
Amicus used to have several locations around Cincinnati. Last August, Booker and his wife Mable purchased a building in North Fairmount. They consolidated their services there.
The place needed work.
The Rev. Kevin Mabrey, who's spent 36 years in engineering, offered to help. He said he "fell in love with the kids" and the Bookers' mission.
"I committed myself to do whatever needed to be done to the building -- structurally, mechanically, electrically or plumbing -- to make sure the building property complied" with local and state laws, Mambrey said.
Amicus is open year-round: 2:30 to 7 p.m. during the school year and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the summer.
The North Fairmount building had no air-conditioning. By June, it got hot -- "right at 90 degrees and unbearable," Mabrey said -- no matter how many windows were open or fans were running. That wouldn't have been in compliance with state requirements.
"It was like the Sonora desert," 9-year-old Kingston Harmon said.
Mabrey called around to big-box hardware stores. Lowe's on Harrison Avenue offered to help, making Amicus a "hero project" this year. The store manager already delivered four air-conditioning units to keep classrooms cool.
The quick response left Mabrey "stupefied."
"Realistically, when I assessed the building at first to do a contract proposal to renovate the entire building and facilitate the school, it was right around $600,000," he said. "Lowe's is putting a lot into that. I can't speak for Lowe's financially, but it's heartfelt -- the numbers."